|Lauren Johnson is a dancer and free lance writer. She wrote a beautiful, detailed article about a Trager session with me in July, 2009. It was published in the e-zine "Mind Body Sanctuary", but the link is no longer active, so here is her article:
The Trager® Approach
By: Lauren Johnson
June 7, 2009
Tight coils of muscle beneath my shoulder blades send a searing pain throughout my upper back. This aching is nearly daily and begins late afternoon, after hours spent typing at my computer. I try the “downward dog” and “child’s pose” yoga stretches, as well as massage but as soon as I’m back at the computer, sprinting towards a deadline, the pain returns with a vengeance.
My typing posture, (usually me hunched over my keyboard,) is likely the culprit so I know that I need to correct my poor habits in order to heal. I investigate a form of bodywork called Trager (or Trager ®) (http://www.trager.com/index.html) in order to release my clenched muscles and learn how I can prevent future pain.
“Trager is a kind of bodywork that uses gentle rocking motions or movements,” explains Judy-Rose Seibert** (http://www.tragerbyjudyrose.com), a certified Trager Practitioner, Tutor & Movement Workshop Leader and President of the Chesapeake Trager Association. “There are two parts of it, one is where you lay on a table, like a massage table and the other part is self-care. While you’re on the table, the practitioner moves the client’s body in a gentle, rocking way, but always staying within the client’s comfort level. It’s really important for the work to feel safe. Because when it feels safe, the body will allow greater and greater range of motion and the repetitive rocking lulls the body into a deep state of relaxation.“
The Trager Approach was created by Milton Trager, MD, who lived from 1908-1997. Dr. Trager was 18 years old when he realized that applying gentle, non-intrusive rocking motions to the muscles had great healing effects, and so he devoted his career to developing this form of bodywork, which he called psychophysical integration. There are Trager associations within each region of the United States and 22 international associations. To view a complete list of associations, visit http://www.trager.com/find_a_practitioner.html.
Seibert explains how Trager benefits one experiencing myofascial—muscular—pain. “With each repetition of rocking, the body will move more and more, and this allows hypertonic muscles, or muscles that are too tight, to learn to gradually, bit by bit, let go. As they let go, the unconscious mind, which is what sets all of the holding patterns for the muscles, learns that it’s safe to let go of those holding patterns. This is why Trager is called movement education~you are educating the mind to let go of holding patterns. “
According to Seibert, some causes for holding patterns that lead to chronic pain include stress; injury, whether it’s physical or emotional; poor postural or gait habits.
“For instance if you sit at your computer and the computer is not set at the right height, you may have to hold your arm up to mouse, causing you to get chronic holding patterns in some of the shoulder muscles.” Seibert says.
“Or if people are driving and they are tense, their shoulders go up. Sometimes there are people who you can ask to relax and take their shoulder blades down the back and they really can’t. By doing gradual rocking movements, the body can re-learn to let go and experience a fuller range of movement,” she says.
Seibert was eager to help alleviate that persistent pain in my upper back. She invited me into her Silver Spring, Maryland studio, which is lit mainly by natural light and decorated to look as if it were a cozy guest room within her home. Books on Trager, massage and healing practices fill a tidy bookshelf, and the table is made with comfortable, cotton sheets and blankets.
Before we began our session, Seibert asked me to fill out a short form describing my pain and any medical history that she should be aware of. She also explained that Trager can be performed fully clothed, or with the client wearing a minimum of his or her underclothes, according to preference. However, the client is always draped by sheets.
When I was ready, Seibert put on a soothing compilation of nature sounds and told me that during this session, I was to become a rag doll. On the table, I released my limbs and relaxed as far as my muscles allow me.
Seibert devoted attention to each limb and region of my body, (beginning with my shoulders, thank goodness!) She applied some pressure to the muscles, but mainly rolled them back and forth in her hands and gently stretched my limbs. Each time my arm or head fell in one direction, Seibert encouraged me not to pick it, up, but rather, let it rest wherever it wanted to. It was then that I realized how much tension I actually had been carrying throughout my body.
Once Seibert finished with one of my limbs, she would ask me to compare how it felt to the other limb that had not yet received Trager. The difference was immediate. The limb that Seibert had spent time with felt far more connected with the rest of my body. The other limb almost felt like it’s own separate entity in comparison! Not only had just a short session of Trager help relieve pain, it also helped me grow more conscious of my body.
“There are a lot of people who live completely in their heads, and not in their bodies at all. That’s a group of people that this work is really good for; for bringing them back into feeling awareness in their bodies,” Seibert says. “It’s when people disassociate from their bodies that they injure them.”
Once my session began to draw to a close and I blissfully stepped down from the comfy table, Seibert taught me something called, “Mentastics®.” Mentastics are movements that a client can do on his or her own to maintain the healing effects of a Trager session. I realized that I have a tendency to lift my shoulders up towards my ears when I am stressed, so Seibert taught me how I can roll the shoulders down my back if I encounter a stressful situation and feel myself tightening up again.
Three days later, my back continues to feel relaxed and soothed. The pesky knot beneath my shoulder blade has not returned despite numerous hours at the computer. The Mentastics have been especially beneficial, because now I am more conscious of my holding patterns. Whenever I feel myself tightening up, I simply roll my shoulder down my back as Seibert taught me and the tension fades.
If you are interested in learning more about Trager, finding a practitioner, or becoming a practitioner, visit http://www.trager.com/. Or feel free to visit Judy Rose Seibert’s website, www.tragerbyjudyrose.com and contact her.
The Dancing Cloud logo, Trager and Mentastics are registered service marks of Trager® International.